Forms of address are shown below for use in social and business contexts when addressing untitled individuals who do not belong to the peerage or professions where use of additional titles is necessary.
Traditionally, it is considered incorrect for a married woman or a widow to be addressed by her own forename or initials, as this implies that her marriage has been dissolved. However, it is becoming increasingly customary for married women and widows to use their own forenames and initials, and many people consider it acceptable.
Some women, especially actresses or those engaged in business, choose to retain their maiden names, in which case many prefer the prefix 'Ms' in place of Mrs and Miss.
In 1976 the Speaker of the House of Commons agreed to this usage by female Members of Parliament if they so wished.
How to Address a Married Woman
|Beginning of letter||Dear Mrs Smith/Miss Smith/Ms Smith|
|End of letter||Yours sincerely|
|Envelope||Mrs John Smith/ Miss Mary Smith/Ms Mary Smith|
|Verbal communication||Mrs/Miss/Ms Smith|
|Invitation||Mrs John Smith/Miss Mary Smith/Ms Mary Smith|
|Joint invitation* & joint form of address||Mr and Mrs John Smith|
|Description in conversation||Mrs/Miss/Ms Smith|
|List of Directors or Patrons||Check with the lady herself|
|Place card||Mrs John Smith/ Miss Mary Smith/Ms Mary Smith
*Note that, traditionally, invitations to a married couple, when sent to their home address, are addressed to the wife alone, with both names being inscribed on the invitation card. It has become increasingly acceptable, however, to address the envelope with both names.
Some divorced women revert to their maiden names, but the majority do not, especially when there are children from the marriage. Mrs (or Ms) Mary Smith is generally the preferred style of address for all correspondence.